QUAERITUR: Priest refuses to use new translation in consecration of Precious Blood. Invalid?

From a reader:

If I had to guess, there are probably many priests throughout the US who are refusing to celebrate the Mass according to the new translation.

My question is, “Is the Mass invalid if a priest uses the old words of consecration?” I am sure we can all agree that it would be illicit, but is it invalid? I am asking this because I am wondering what I should do if I encounter a Mass where the priest uses the old translation.

The consecration is NOT invalid if the priest uses the obsolete, incorrect words for the consecration as they were in the obsolete, incorrect and now illicit-to-use old ICEL version.  If the priest says, for example the incorrect and now illicit, “for all”, purposely, he is probably committing a sin if he is doing so out of contempt for authority and because he thinks he knows better.  It would, nevertheless, be a valid consecration.

What should you do?

If you are just dropping by that parish and you don’t have regular ties there, think twice before doing something.  You are not there often enough to know if the priest is simply making a mistake because of an old habit – it happens! – or whether he is defying the Church’s authority and causing scandal at the most solemn moment of Holy Mass.

If are at your regular parish, then I suggest you consult my tips for writing to bishops or offices of the Holy See.

I suggest, first, a conversation with the priest if possible.  Then follow up that conversation with a writing letter about what was said.  If that doesn’t bear fruit, then send copies to the local bishop.  If that doesn’t bear fruit, send copies to the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome.  I think it is always best to work on these things at the lowest possible level of authority, (parish – diocese – congregation).  The same applies if the priest is a member of a religious order in one of their chapels or churches or institutions.

At the end of Redemptionis Sacramentum we read:

6. Complaints Regarding Abuses in Liturgical Matters

[183.] In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favouritism.[184.] Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan Bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity.

Again, priests can slip up out of habit.  I knew an priest who once in a while used to say “Paul, our Pope” during the Canon.  Words repeated every day of a priest’s life can become engrained and pop out unexpectedly.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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24 Responses to QUAERITUR: Priest refuses to use new translation in consecration of Precious Blood. Invalid?

  1. Joe in Canada says:

    Most illicit changes priests make move the liturgical text away from the biblical text; I don’t understand why they do that.
    I remember in the late 70s or early 80s (I was at college) the debate was in about “for all MEN”. My college chaplain, the holy OMI Fr Joe Hattie, said “I too would prefer to say ‘all’ instead of ‘all men’, but I do what the Church tells me.” And the Church amended the English text to “all” instead of “all men”. So priests who insist on “all” also have to admit a) they are not going back to the text of Paul VI and b) there are legitimate channels for their complaints.

  2. perhaps the priest in question has not made the mental transfer to the new missal. I would make no comment until after the first of the year to allow mistakes to bcome a thing of the past.

  3. Dan says:

    I gather this is a hypothetical question, but it seems to me that it makes for an interesting question in its own right. Is this even a thing that is happening? I mean, if I had to guess, I would say that there are probably very few priests who are refusing to use the new translation.

    Has anyone been to a Mass where the priest has deliberately used the old translation?

  4. Will D. says:

    Dan asks a good question. Is this actually a problem, or is the original reader looking for problems that don’t exist?

  5. Theodore says:

    @Dan 12:59

    I have not but in a neighboring parish the priest has stated to the parish Liturgy Committee (of which my RCIA sponsor is a member) that he would, and did last week, stay with “for all.” My friend is not sure what to do. I will send him a link to this thread.

    In the meantime I will pray for this priest and all such similarly situated.

  6. Fr Matthew says:

    Also, keep in mind the age of the priest. The former pastor of my home parish is now retired, and has passed his 91st birthday. He still celebrates public Masses from time to time, but he has some memory problems, and – as is not uncommon with some people when they become elderly – he has a hard time with change, and can be a bit hard to convince of things. I would not be at all surprised if he continues to use the now-defunct old translation, and I would not condemn him for it either. That’s obviously different from the case of a priest who is under retirement age and has no cognitive difficulties, but who continues to use the old translation for ideological reasons.

  7. shadowat says:

    @Dan & WillD: Yes, it is indeed happening in some places and not just out of error. Even the Mass readings were changed.

  8. Margaret says:

    Every time I hear a priest stumble over the new translation, I just remind myself of how hard the transition from “John Paul, our Pope,” to “Benedict, our Pope” was. I was still hearing that get garbled many months after the papal election. Makes sense, since for many, many of our priests, John Paul’s was the only name they’d ever said while celebrating Mass.

    I’d give it a good long while before getting my dander up… Barring the specific situation Theodore describes above, with the priest publicly verbalizing his ill-intent, I plan to interpret any and all mistakes in the most charitable manner possible.

  9. rfox2 says:

    Fr Z. said: If the priest says, for example the incorrect and now illicit, “for all”, purposely, he is probably committing a sin if he is doing so out of contempt for authority and because he thinks he knows better. It would, nevertheless, be a valid consecration.

    If a priest deliberately does this, though, is he doing what the Church intends? He’s injecting his own theological views into the canon of the Mass. Isn’t the intent of the priest a condition for the validity of the Mass? I’m not suggesting that the laity can be the judge of that, but if the intent of the priest has an objective effect on validity, it doesn’t matter what the laity presumes or not.

  10. Charles E Flynn says:

    Please see the comments about “for all/for many” from a highly-qualified source at the end of Theologian/Pope: 1; Dissenter/Poet: 0.

  11. Precentrix says:

    rfox2:

    Common sense would say that it was still valid as:

    a) The minimum form of the sacrament is deemed to be “This is my Body” and “This is my Blood”…

    and

    b) The minimum requirement for ‘intention’ is ‘to do whatever the Church does when the Church does this’ – which covers (at least I hope) even priests who don’t actively believe in the Real Presence.

  12. BobP says:

    One would think people like P.H. Omlor who questioned the validity of the all-English canon in the late 60’s would have been vindicated by now.

  13. randomcatholic says:

    I agree with those counseling patience….

    If over the last two weeks I had a nickel for every time I said “And also….. with your spirit…. oops ” (the oops silent and internal) I would probably not be rich…. but I’d have at least 50 cents.

  14. Marie Teresa says:

    Our very elderly and beloved pastor used to slip, and rather than celebrate the NO, he would celebrate Mass ad orientum in Latin. He once said that there’d been some talk of the priest turning around to face the people but we needn’t fear, that he was there to protect us!

    He’s since passed away, but what a treasure we shared while he lived.

  15. James Joseph says:

    Maybe Paul needed praying for.

    The holy Spirit can use even human habit.

  16. JKnott says:

    Has anyone been to a Mass where the priest has deliberately used the old translation?

    No, but how about …..deliberately left out the Credo ……..

  17. CarismaTeaCo says:

    Our Priests decided their society’s trip to Colombia was more important. They weren’t even here for the Feast of Christ the King (our patron Saint). So upon one priest’s return this past Sunday, he decided to say Holy Mass as he had before he left. For both English services! Thank God he doesn’t understand Spanish too well, that service was ok, minus the usuall kumbaya details. This is the priest who once told me he would never say Mass in Latin even if the Pope asked him to.

  18. ajbasso says:

    Has anyone been to a Mass where the priest has deliberately used the old translation?

    Sadly, the pastor of the parish in whose boundaries I reside said that “the Church has yet again found a way to fix something that wasn’t broken” and that this particular portion of the new translation is “heretical”. This is why I normally drive across town to a parish that offers both the EF and a very faithfully (STB, DTR) celebrated OF.

  19. Centristian says:

    @Dan:

    “Is this even a thing that is happening? I mean, if I had to guess, I would say that there are probably very few priests who are refusing to use the new translation.”

    I would have to imagine the same: very few. But if even “very few” priests are doing it, then it is happening. That’s to be expected, however. I think in most dioceses there exist one or two parishes that have the reputation of being dissident, renegade, quite to the left of center. Such parishes are typically near college campuses, are led by left-leaning “socially aware” clergy awash in academia, and are positively characterized by their regular defiance of local bishops and of liturgical norms. In such parishes you might see the “old” translations used, perhaps even as a deliberate protest.

    Worshippers who do not belong to parishes of that sort, however, are unlikely to have encountered such rebellions against the revised translation. They are likely to have encountered mistakes, however, and are likely to continue to encounter mistakes for months ahead.

  20. Samthe44 says:

    When I was serving on the first day of the New Translations (which are beautiful), I held the brand-new Roman Missal for the Introductory Rites, and our priest said the words, to which I replied ‘And with your spirit’ (how I excited I was to finally being able to say that!). Most of the congregation replied ‘And also with you’. The priest then gives me a look, which I think meant something like, ‘Oh no’. This happened quite often during The Mass.

  21. rfox2 says:

    Precentrix: “The minimum requirement for ‘intention’ is ‘to do whatever the Church does when the Church does this’ – which covers (at least I hope) even priests who don’t actively believe in the Real Presence.”

    Thanks for responding. This might seem obvious to many, but I can be obtuse. It’s out of zeal for the Lord, of course. ;-)

    However, I can’t understand how someone can intend to do what the Church does if they deny that the act is even possible. The intent and the form of the sacrament are separate. I’m just referring to the intent. A defect in the form could very well indicate a defect in the intent.

  22. Supertradmum says:

    I was wondering about the new translation here in Malta, as none of the Masses I have attended in at least ten churches have implemented it. I asked someone who said that it was not yet translated into Maltese. I do not know. I sincerely hope all these Masses I attend daily are valid. Is there a calendar for countries as to when the changes are implemented? Great Britain and the United States have done so, what about Canada, Mexico and other countries? How does one find out the formal dates for the changes?

  23. fwbear says:

    My God Father Z! I’m frankly amazed that in light of your propensity to run around with your hair on fire when anyone, especially a priest strays from current liturgical practice, you would actually be somewhat tolerant of a priest who “slips up” and reverts to verbage in past liturgicl practice. You must be getting old.

    [Or perhaps you have for some time, in my regard, been guilty of rash judgement. o{]:¬/ ]

  24. br.david says:

    Wouldn’t failure to use the words, as now translated, be subverting the ‘FORM’ of the sacrament? The Church, now, has changed the wording, which comprises the FORM of the sacrament. The older translation is no longer what the Church desires to be used in the celebration of the Liturgy under the English translation. Of course, the Latin is normative … nevertheless, the translation is as the Church intends for her celebration and dispensing of the sacraments.